Binge gaming part 2: is game addiction real?

Is there a difference between binging and addiction?

Addiction is a difficult subject to discuss, but first we must ask, what is addiction?  Psychology Today defines addiction as “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. ” ( Using this description we can actually see that the line for enjoying something in an intense manner and doing it compulsively, blurs quite easily; that the distinction between the two comes from the activity or substance having a negative impact on the user.

To a degree it is true that games are immersive, they draw the player in, and inspire commitment.  However, the difference between devoting time to a game a player loves versus sacrificing things the player had valued in the past to play a game in an unhealthy manner can be challenging to distinguish as an outside party.

Players have often been painted as being addicted to their games, with the observer feeling like the player is wasting their time doing the same thing over and over. As I have stated before, it can be incredibly difficult for non-players to understand a game’s appeal since games are developed for the enjoyment of the player and not an audience.

Thus it is important to consider the player’s demeanor, the conditions under which they live, their jobs, their friends, their dreams, and their failures, in order to understand the motivation behind how they play. If their motivation is to use a game as an excuse to neglect their responsibilities and the important people in their lives then it is clear that there is a problem.

When a player abuses gaming, it often stems from another part of their life being out of control, it may even be derived from cross-addiction, where the player is attempting to get off of another addictive habit by supplementing it with compulsive gaming habits.  In light of this possibility, we may consider irresponsible binge gaming as the manifestation of compulsive behavior in a person.  Still, we must address the behavioral problem in the person as an individual, instead of insisting that games alone are the cause of addictive behavior.

In addition to this we must also observe and respect players who are simply enjoying their gaming experience.  If they complete their responsibilities honestly and do their part to maintain healthy relationships with the important people in their lives; then the gamer’s behavior, even while binging, must be accepted as an act of passionate investment in their pastime.

This is the second installment in my 5 part series titled Binge gaming, if you enjoyed it please feel free to read through the other articles within the series. I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to


Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookInstagramand Youtube.

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